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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Philosophy Exam – First Year. From Bill Pollard via Crooked Timber.

In marking exam scripts this year I have once more been alarmed at the mismatch between students' answers and the questions set. To rectify the situation Soran Reader and I have devised a paper, usable for almost all philosophy courses, which should bring the two back into harmony. Members of the list should feel free to use any part of it when setting future papers.

Philosophy Exam – First Year

Answer two questions

Two hours

1. Patch together some things you have heard in lectures, in no particular order.

2. Has this question vexed philosophers for centuries?

3. Create an impression of original thought by impassioned scribbling (your answer may be ungrammatical, illegible, or both).

4. Does the answer to this question depend on what you believe?

5. How much irrelevant historical background can you give before addressing this question?

6. Describe two opposing views, then say what you personally feel.

7. Rise above the fumbling efforts of others and speculate freely on an issue of your choice.


(a) Answer this question by announcing that it really means something different (and much easier to answer).


(b) Write out your answer to last year’s question on this topic.

9. Protest your convictions in the teeth of obvious and overwhelming objections.

10. Keep your reader guessing about what you think until the end. Then don’t tell them.